professors travel abroad on Fulbright grants to discover a more global view.
of the Truman faculty were recently selected to serve as cultural ambassadors
for the prestigious Fulbright program sponsored by the U.S. Government. Earlier
this summer, Dr. Jeffrey Osborn, associate professor of biology, returned
from Sweden, where he conducted research at the Swedish Museum of Natural
History in Stockholm. Soon after Osborn returned to Kirksville, Dr. David
Robinson, associate professor of history, set off for South Ukraine to teach
history at Kherson State Pedagogical University.
than half a century, the Fulbright Program has offered educational exchanges
to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries.
Osborn and Robinson join five other Truman colleagues who have received Fulbright
Scholar appointments in recent years.
research in Sweden
Osborn, a botanist who just started his 10th year teaching at Truman, realizes
that sometimes it can be a real challenge to get students excited about the
study of plants. That is why he strives to incorporate active learning to
teach the process of doing science in addition to conveying content about
science. "I believe biology is exciting when it is hands-on, so I try
to incorporate field trips and research projects that are open-ended and allow
students to learn the excitement of doing science rather than doing what we
call 'cook-book laboratories' where all the instructions are spelled out,"
says Osborn. His recent trip to Stockholm, Sweden, on a Fulbright grant to
conduct botanical research at the Swedish Museum of Natural History is one
more way he can demonstrate to his students just how exciting the study of
plants can be.
like Osborn have a special affinity for Sweden because it was the home of
Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern plant and
animal classification. For 4 1/2 months, Osborn set up residence in a furnished
apartment in Stockholm along with his wife, Yolanda Lawas, and their 3 1/2-year-old
was within walking distance of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where
Osborn conducted much of his research during his stay. The museum, well-known
internationally for its collections of millions of specimens, provides the
basis for research in the areas of botany, geology, zoology, paleobotany and
paleontology. Osborn had the opportunity to work in the museum's Palynological
Laboratory, one of the best laboratories in the world for the study of pollen
previous studies of pollen formation in the American lotus had discovered
that pollen grains have different apertures. The Fulbright grant allowed him
to study the different aperture types found on the pollen grains of both species
of lotus - the American lotus and the sacred lotus. "It is an interesting
biological phenomenon," he says. "And it is also an important evolutionary
character for looking at how plants are related to one another."
the grant, Osborn had time to focus solely on the research without having
to fulfill the daily obligations of a professor, such as teaching classes
and doing committee work. Another bonus provided by the grant was the chance
to work and interact with Gamal El-Ghazaly, an expert in pollen development
and director of the Palynological Lab at the museum. At Truman, Osborn is
the only professor who studies pollen development. However, in Stockholm,
he worked with many fellow botanists where they could bounce ideas off one
another. "Working in an environment with people who are studying the
same kind of things that I am interested in was very valuable," says
Osborn. Not only did Osborn have the opportunity to try out new instruments,
such as a laser confocal microscope, he also learned several new research
techniques that he will now be able to introduce to his students at Truman.
Osborn's work in Stockholm was very productive in terms of research. According
to Osborn, they have already submitted two papers to be published in peer-reviewed
journals. Another project is near completion, and they started two other projects.
Most importantly, the Fulbright grant began a collaboration between Osborn,
his students, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and Truman State University
that will carry on well into the future.
Sweden, Osborn had the opportunity to provide a cultural exchange by presenting
a seminar at the museum. Sharing ideas about research and the educational
system in America, he pointed out the similarities and differences between
the American and Swedish systems. In addition, he presented information on
the mission of Truman State University, describing what the students are like
and the type of facilities available at Truman. Osborn is also sending the
Fulbright office in Stockholm admission materials for Truman that can be made
available to Swedish students who wish to study in the United States.
he is back in the United States, Osborn is already making plans to approach
his classes at Truman with a different perspective so students can benefit
from his experience in Sweden. As a strong believer in personal interaction
with students, Osborn enjoys working at an institution where doing research
with undergraduate students is valued. "There may be opportunity for
students to go to Sweden to do research there," says Osborn who is looking
into developing a study-abroad course to Sweden. "As the home of Carl
Linnaeus, who developed the binomial system of nomenclature, it is an important
country with respect to botany," says Osborn.
of research opportunities in Sweden's capital attracts people from all around
the world making Stockholm an exceptionally international city. "In addition
to research, Stockholm offers opportunity for personal growth and a chance
to learn about many other cultures," says Osborn.
in southern Ukraine
a history professor who joined the Truman faculty in 1990, received a Fulbright
grant to spend up to a year in Ukraine. A country in eastern Europe, Ukraine
is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. Robinson will teach
history classes at Kherson State Pedagogical University.
think we have done a very good job of showing the excellence of our students
and the progress they make in our programs and curriculum," says Robinson.
"One thing I am trying to do with this Fulbright grant is to get national
recognition for the work of Truman State University's faculty." While
serving as a professor at the university in Kherson, Robinson plans to teach
American history, history of technology and business, history of science,
and history of psychology.
became interested in applying for a Fulbright grant after another Truman professor,
Seymour Patterson, went to Africa on a Fulbright grant. About the same time,
a Fulbright scholar from Africa came to Kirksville and taught in Trumanšs
history department. "I could see how much he helped us, coming from a
very different culture and civilization to talk to us about the way we teach
history and to learn about our university," says Robinson. "I think
the Fulbright program was attracted by the idea of taking the approach we
use here at Truman as a representative of good college teaching in the United
States and using it as an example for an exchange of ideas in another country."
at a university in Ukraine is a natural progression for Robinson who began
a mission more than 20 years ago. It started after he graduated from Harvard
in 1976, when he received a Rotary Foundation Award to study in West Germany.
The year he spent in West Germany left a major impression on him. "I
realized that the time of my own life has been defined by the Cold War which
was a result of the World Wars of the 20th century," explains Robinson.
he has been devoted to studies of European history and to the problems of
modern civilization, as well as the history of education. He did his doctoral
research in archives in Eastern Germany and took his Ph.D. in history at Berkeley
in 1987. "Studying European history and the post-Cold War is a very good
way of getting a handle on these large problems, since much of the Cold War
was centered there."
Robinson, who by this time was teaching at Truman, took the next step in his
journey which led him to Russia. While on sabbatical, he was able to advance
his professional and personal pursuit even further by conducting research
at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
began looking at opportunities for a Fulbright grant, Ukraine came up as a
logical choice to fulfill the next leg of his journey. "Ukraine is between
all the cultures of Europe," says Robinson. "They have suffered
in a way much like Germany has suffered throughout history by being at the
crossroads of the great cultural, political, and military movements."
Robinson sees his work in Ukraine as a way to enhance Truman State University's
reputation, as well as an opportunity to continue the work he began in Germany.
when the republic of Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union,
many transitions have taken place. As the people of Ukraine shift from a Soviet
system to a market economy during the post-Soviet era, many questions have
been raised. During his stay in Ukraine, Robinson plans to research some of
these important issues that will have an impact on eastern Europe and on the
rest of the world.
are wondering if it will be possible to have both eastern and western Europe
working together in the future. "Located between Russia and western Europe,
Ukraine could develop in a positive direction toward peace and democratic
institutions," says Robinson. "And if things go badly, we have to
worry about the Russians and other countries finding a different course -
one that we might have trouble living with."
Ukraine, Robinson hopes to learn more about the nation's music, art, architecture,
religion and other cultural activities that he feels are essential to understanding
the history of the place. "These are the type of things I have featured
in my courses in the past," says Robinson. "These approaches fit
together in ways that help my students experience and understand a place such
as Ukraine. Because students have to learn so many things in the abstract
from maps and textbooks," Robinson is pleased to have the opportunity
to help them build a connection to reality by relating his own experiences.
learned Russian (the language spoken in most of southern Ukraine) by taking
courses at Truman sitting in classes with the undergraduates. He stresses
the importance of learning the language of the people when traveling to a
foreign-speaking nation. "When an American can speak their language and
wants to hear what they have to say, the kind of exchange you can arouse is
so rewarding," says Robinson, who has found this to be true in his previous
trips abroad. He strongly encourages all Truman students and alumni to take
advantage of their foreign language course requirement. He also advises others
not only to learn a foreign language, but also to take it a step further -
if traveling to a foreign country is not possible, he suggests spending time
with others who speak the language and know the culture. "It is important
to the future of the United States that the best educated in our country also
learn other languages," says Robinson. "In this aspect, I think
Truman students are in better shape than many others."
Origin of the Fulbright Program
in Sumner, Mo., April 9, 1905, J. William Fulbright became an American
educator and politician. By the young age of 34, he had been named president
of the University of Arkansas, and he entered politics in 1942. His
political career spanned 32 years, during which time he served as a
congressman, senator, and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,
before his death in 1995.
of Fulbright's goals was to create an exchange of students, scholars,
and teachers to increase international understanding. He hoped this
type of exchange would result in enlightened foreign policies. In 1946,
while serving as the junior senator from Arkansas, Fulbright introduced
legislation that led to the creation of the Fulbright Program to provide
funds for the type of cultural exchange he had envisioned.
Fulbright Program offers faculty, professionals, teachers, and students
the opportunity to conduct research, teach or study abroad, with awards
that range from two months to a full academic year. After more than
half a century, the program has exchanged nearly a quarter of a million
people - more than 70,000 Americans have studied or conducted research
abroad, and more than 130,000 people from other countries have engaged
in similar activities in the United States.
the Fulbright Program is known as America's flagship educational exchange
program and is sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), an independent
foreign affairs agency within the executive branch of the U.S. government.
USIA promotes mutual understanding among nations and peoples through
a number of educational exchange activities. The agency also supports
U.S. foreign policy through a wide range of information programs.